In January this year, a 13-year-old boy’s mother was killed following a horrendous and sustained assault. His father has been charged with his mother’s murder, and that matter has yet to proceed to a trial.
On June 6, 2017, the child appeared before Judge Greg Borchers in the Tennant Creek Youth Court, entering a guilty plea to damaging a government car, the doorway of the local bank and damage to a restaurant committed over two days in late May 2017. The child had more that $3800 in outstanding fines from previous offences and was under a good behaviour bond imposed in March 2017.
The Northern Myth has been provided with a transcript of proceedings in the matter and, apart from brief comments from elsewhere below, I provide the following excerpts without comment as the matter is still before the courts. While under NT law it is permissable to name the juvenile offender, I have chosen not to do so at this time.
Following the presentation of relevant facts by the NT Police prosecutor, the child’s solicitor, Dev Bhutani of the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS), began his submissions, noting the child’s age, prior offending and the “extremely difficult set of circumstances” that he was facing. He noted that his offending behaviour at multiple premises in front of CCTV cameras was “not only juvenile, but rather brazen”.
Borchers interrupted by suggesting that the offending was “extremely serious” — a point that Dev Bhutani demurred to. Following submissions from Bhutani that the “overall loss wasn’t that great”, the following exchange occurred between Borchers, police prosecutor Sergeant Lyons and Bhutani.
“Mr Lyons: The last time that Middle Earth [the restaurant] got their doors broken it was over $3000.
His Honour: Yes. Yes. Client coming up with the money, is he, Mr Bhutani?
Mr Bhutani: No, your Honour, as you’ve heard he already has a considerable amount of outstanding —
His Honour: Family going to pay the money, are they, Mr Bhutani?
Mr Bhutani: Not that I know of.
His Honour: Who is going to pay the money, Mr Bhutani?
Mr Bhutani: Your Honour, it’s a difficult situation. Unfortunately — — —
His Honour: No. No. Tell me, who do you think might pay the money, Mr Bhutani?
Mr Bhutani: It will unfortunately fall upon the ratepayers — the insurance payers here, the residents in Tennant Creek.
His Honour: Yes. Exactly.”
Then followed an exchange between bench and bar about the child’s prior offending and court appearances and his attendance at school and whether anyone was providing parental control over the child, particularly around the time of the offending in May. Bhutani sought to put the offending in context.
“Mr Bhutani: If I might contextualise, the last few months in Mr xxxxx’s life, your Honour, now your Honour’s probably aware of a death that took place in the Tennant Creek community that’s now really being investigated as a murder. That is xxxxx’s mother and the primary suspect at this stage is his father, who is currently serving a significant time on remand at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre, being investigated for the death of his partner and ….’s mother.
Now that, your Honour, by all accounts, by all service providers here in the courtroom today, which I’m happy to call as well, has obviously taken a very significant toll on Mr xxxxx. But, I think it’s really well reflected —
His Honour: Well, call them. I’d like to know how they relate that to breaking into people’s property including that (sic). Call one of them, anyone you like and get that person to tell me how grief results in breaking into banks.”
Bhutani continued his submissions.
“Mr Bhutani: If I might first, you Honour, tender — and I might finish my point, tendering the school attendance records from a period prior to April and a period later on … It really shows a very remarkable noticeable difference in attendance, 79 per cent down to 26 per cent. And, this is at a time after he’s lost his mother.
But, by all accounts, your Honour, that ongoing alcohol misuse and other issues in the family have really resulted in ….. being of quite low mood, suffering social anxiety. I’ve also got notes that he struggles to make and maintain long term friendships and really does take solace in the company of his two younger sisters, your Honour.
His Honour: Sorry, say that again.
Mr Bhutani: That he really takes solace in the company of his two younger sisters.
His Honour: How old are they?
Mr Bhutani: Seven and eight?
His Honour: So, why wasn’t he with them at night?
Mr Bhutani: Sorry, 12 and 13 – – –
His Honour: Okay. So, if he’s so concerned about them, why is he out on the streets at 5am?
Mr Bhutani: They were residing at Ali Kurung (sic) at that time , your Honour
Then followed discussion about the child’s appointment — in mid-June 2017 — with the Alice Springs-based clinical psychologist and his difficulty engaging with the Tennant Creek-based Youth Mental Health team, his school attendance record and submissions on how the matter might proceed …
*Read the rest at Crikey blog Northern Myth